Cat fleas or Ctenocephalides Felis is a common ectoparasite in the United States. In tropical regions, they can be a huge problem all year round (owing to their potential as a disease vector as well as biting capability). In lower temperate regions, they mainly appear during the warmer seasons.
What are Ctenocephalides Felis fleas?
The Ctenocephalides Felis or cat fleas are small pests measuring about 2mm in length. They are dark brown or reddish in color, typically wingless, but capable of jumping long distances. Their laterally compressed bodies are covered with hair. They have very strong hind legs which enable them to jump from one host to another. In the adult stage, the Ctenocephalides Felis also have mouthparts that allow them to suck blood from their host.
Cat flea bites and their effects and symptoms
Cats infested with Ctenocephalides Felis tend to scratch themselves repeatedly. In very extreme cases, flea-produced anemia can also result in death of the animals. Even pet owners can suffer from cat flea bites which can lead to intense itching and scratching that may give rise to secondary skin infections.
Cats might also suffer from a condition known as Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD). This mainly affects allergic or hypersensitive cats which react to the salivary antigens produced by the Ctenocephalides Felis. This can lead to intense scratching or pruritis as well as self inflicted trauma. Pet owners must keep an eye out for signs of intense grooming in the cat, which can cause open and oozing sores.
Treating cat flea bites
- For scabs resulting from cat flea bites, it is important to let the skin heal naturally. One may use gentle and natural products like Aloe vera gel lotion to treat the scabs. Make sure to use specially formulated gentle shampoos that will not irritate the cat’s skin.
- Neosporin antibacterial ointment may be rubbed on the open sores to speed up healing.
- In case of severe FAD or flea allergy dermatitis, the vet may prescribe corticosteroids (however, this has some undesirable side effects in case of chronic conditions).
How to get rid of cat fleas
Cat fleas always require a warm blooded host to survive, so the most effective solution to get rid of cat fleas is to suppress their numbers on the host. Today, there are many effective sprays, shampoos and oral or topical treatments that can achieve this objective. It is essential to note that flea products available for dogs should not be used on cats, as many of these are formulated for ‘canine use only’ and can be fatal to felines.
It is recommended to talk to a veterinarian regarding products for flea control that may help get rid of the infestation and give relief from Ctenocephalides Felis bites for several weeks or months.
Spot on application products can be applied in minuscule quantities on the cat’s back bone near the tail region. The product gets distributed all over the body through the skin oils. Additionally, one can make use of sprays for controlling cat fleas; these can get rid of existing fleas and also provide residual control for days to come.
In order to ensure that the cat is safe from fleas during the infestation season, it is best to treat it with flea developmental inhibitors at the start of the season. These are available in the form of oral tablets or liquids which can be added to cat food. They inhibit the flea populations by rendering the female Ctenocephalides Felis infertile.
Apart from sprays, powders and tablets, it is also essential to treat the pet’s environment. This includes washing the pet’s bedding in hot water to kill eggs and larvae. This will prevent new cat fleas by breaking the flea life cycle. Additionally, the areas inhabited by the pet should also be vacuumed, giving special attention to areas under the furniture, utility rooms and other places where the cat spends time.